Ask Dr. Tory: What to Know About the Mysterious Dog Respiratory Illness

by Sundays

Frenchie dog on bed looking tired

Should you worry? You should be conscious and make adjustments as needed, but try not to panic. Here's what to know.

In recent weeks there has been an outbreak of a novel respiratory disease that at first seems to be a run-of-the-mill kennel cough, but then turns severe in some dogs. 

While it’s just recently making headlines and becoming more widespread, the American Veterinary Medical Association states that veterinarians in Oregon have reported more than 200 cases beginning  back in mid August 2023. Though there is no official case count across the US as a causative agent has not been identified, veterinarians have treated more dogs with these symptoms in the last few months. 

Common respiratory diagnostic testing has resulted in negative results, leading experts to believe that the illness is of viral nature. Further, some Oregon veterinarians hypothesize that it could be viral because the dogs treated have not responded to antibiotics. 

Should you worry? 

You should be conscious and make adjustments as needed, but try not to panic. 

To-date, cases have been reported in at least four states: Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island, but experts suspect that the illness is much more widespread. So really any dog parent should be mindful and be on the lookout for respiratory distress symptoms and lethargy regardless of their location. People who live in snowbird states, should also be especially watchful as pet travel could expedite the potential spreading of this illness. 

“Outbreaks of respiratory disease in dogs is fairly common but usually not very serious” says Dr. Tory. This particular illness appears much more pathogenic that run of the “kennel cough”. “Kennel cough is a general term that applies to multiple viruses and bacterial infections, just like people saying they have a cold.” That being said, dog parents should still be on watch for symptoms, as we know initial signs can take a quick turn for the worse. 

Here’s what to look out for: 

Infected dogs develop a cough, fever, lethargy and intermittent loss of appetite. Some may only have a cough and others may progress to pneumonia. In severe cases, it has resulted in hospitalizations and the deaths of older dogs or those with health issues. 

Specifically, vets have reported the following symptoms: 

- Chronic mild to moderate inflammation of the trachea lasting six to eight weeks or longer, which is minimally or not responsive to antimicrobials. 

- Chronic pneumonia that is minimally or not responsive to antimicrobials. 

- Acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and often leads to poor outcomes in as little as 24 to 36 hours.

And here’s what you can do: 

“I would recommend to make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations and avoid dog daycares, dog parks and boarding/grooming facilities unless absolutely necessary,” says Dr. Tory as many dogs impacted so far have spent time in places with a high concentration of dogs. 

Also, if your dog is showing signs of a respiratory illness, keep them isolated from other dogs and contact your veterinarian immediately. While certain antibiotic protocols are seeming to be more effective than others, further research is needed before determining an antibiotic treatment plan. 

If you have multiple dogs and one appears to have symptoms or has been diagnosed, keep them separated and be sure to give the infected dog their own water, food bowl and bed. Also be sure to wash any previously shared bowls, toys, blankets and beds. 

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